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Amnesty slams 'disturbing and dangerous' escalation of death penalty in Pakistan

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Friday that use of the death penalty in Pakistan is undergoing a "disturbing and dangerous" [press release] escalation after the execution of two men convicted of non-terrorism offenses. Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Fiaz were executed Friday for the murder of the son of the Supreme Court Bar Association's President in 2004. When the six-year death penalty moratorium was lifted [JURIST report] last December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [official profile] said the death penalty would only be applied to terrorism-related cases. AI urged Pakistan once again to reinstate the death penalty moratorium, noting that 24 people have been executed since December and 8,000 people are currently on death row. AI also criticized Pakistan for flaws in its judicial system, expressing concern for long periods of detention without charge and frequent use of torture during interrogations.

The Pakistani government has engaged in a series of anti-terrorism efforts in recent years, including lifting the moratorium on the death penalty after a school shooting [JURIST report] that left more than 130 people dead. Several human rights groups, including AI and Human Rights Watch, urged the Pakistani government in January to halt the execution of another civilian convicted of a non-terror related offense. Last month Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain signed into law anti-terrorism legislation [JURIST report] that will establish military courts for the hearing of civilian terrorism related cases. Last July Pakistan passed [JURIST report] a strict anti-terrorism bill allowing police to use lethal force, search buildings without a warrant, and detain suspects at secret facilities for up to 60 days without charge. Sharif said [JURIST report] in September 2013 that the country's anti-terrorism laws would be amended to more effectively combat modern threats.

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